Donna Mejia Dance Intensive in Portland, OR


June 15 – 17, 2018

Donna Mejia (Assistant Professor, CU Boulder Theatre and Dance) is a choreographer, scholar, director, and performer specializing in contemporary dance, traditions of the African and Arab Diaspora, and emerging fusion traditions in Transnational Electronica. This genre provides a rich arena for the study of cultural imperialism, gender representation and electronic/digital globalization. Donna is also an authorized instructor of the Brazilian Silvestre Modern Dance Technique and is a lauded representative of this esoteric study of dance after 20 years of practice.

For 10 years she was a faculty member at Colorado College and Director of the Colorado College International Summer Dance Festival. For twelve years she served as Managing Director of the award- winning Harambee African Dance Ensemble of CU-Boulder under the amazing leadership of Instructor Emerita Letitia Williams. The Harambee ensemble was awarded the prestigious El Pomar Foundation grant, was featured in the March 1996 issue of Dance Magazine, performed for President Bill Clinton and Nobel Laureate Archbiship Desmond Tutu, is part of the Denver International Airport time capsule, and was hailed as the “Best of Boulder” for 3 years.

Donna was the Guest Artist in Residence for Smith College Dance 2006 – 2009, and has been awarded residencies at the Naropa Institute, Simon Frasier University (Canada), Mt. Holyoke College, Hampshire College, University of Northern Colorado, University of Chile, Taipei National University of the Arts (Taiwan), Bucknell University, Earth Dance, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival (three years) and the Bates Dance Festival (two years). She was nominated for a Pikes Peak Area Artist award in 2005.

In October of 2011 she was selected by the Fulbright Association to present the Selma Jeanne Cohen Endowed Lecture for International Dance Scholarship in Dance, notably for her paper “Digital Diasporas andTransnational Dance Communities: The Effects of the Internet on Identity Formation and Collective Cultural Memory.” Her research was also the featured keynote of Syracuse University’s 2012 Symposium on Public Diplomacy.

Donna completed her undergraduate degree in Business at CU-Boulder, and received her Master of Fine Arts degree on full fellowship from Smith College. She joined the University of Colorado at Boulder as an Assistant Professor of Dance in 2012. She is the first professor of tribal/transnational fusion globally, and serves as the department Director of graduate part time teaching fellows. Donna balances her time teaching and touring throughout the U.S. and abroad, and has headlined over 50 international festivals since 2012. Also dedicated to philanthropic work, she frequently donates her services and performances to conscious organizations and social justice efforts. She was the featured soloist and choreographer for the 2015 NYC off- Broadway production of 11 Reflections on September, and also performed this work at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Her collaboration with vocalist Mankwe Ndosi was part of the 2015 Women of the World Festival at the Apollo Theatre. She has joined the research and development team of Gaia Bella, the documentary film and performance project directed by Kenji Williams. Donna has also added the title of “musical composer” to her docket of skill sets, and is currently in production on an electronic music EP with producer/engineer E.M.C. of Lifted Media. Her choreographic commissions and performances continue to generate outstanding critical reviews from print and digital media.

Workshop & Show Weekend Agenda:

JUNE 15, 2018 (FRI)
8:00 – 10:00 p.m.
Donna Mejia & Special Guests
venue TBA

JUNE 16 (SAT) – Datura Studio
9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Somatic science & Clarifying Technique
1:30 – 3:30 p.m.
Swelling to the Surface, Improvisational Workshop
3:30 – 5:00 p.m.
For the Love of the Craft, Lecture
Midnight – 2 a.m.
Transnational Fusion / Movement Invention

JUNE 17 (SUN) – Datura Studio
1:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Somatic science, Advancing Technique
3:30 – 5:30 p.m.
Introduction to Silvestre Technique

Workshop & Show Details

FRIDAY – JUNE 15, 2018
Donna Mejia & Special Guests
8:00 – 10:00 p.m.
$20 in advance / $25 at the door
*admission for one is included in the Full Weekend package*
featuring Donna Mejia & special NW guests:

9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Somatic science & Clarifying Technique
This workshop summarizes and details the most efficient tools for unleashing the intelligence of the body in dance. Topics covered include breathing techniques, optimal alignment, muscle efficiency and building longevity through precision and strength. Rather than focusing on choreography, Donna will detail cross-training tips from various classical traditions that create a sophisticated and polished dancer.

1:30 – 3:30 p.m. Swelling to the Surface, Improvisational Workshop
I have a deep love for fantastical theatricality and great dance production. Alternately, I have a profound respect for the inherent intelligence of the body when it is freed from the bounds of showmanship. This workshop steps away from the focus on performance and skill acquisition to engage the domain of bodily truth. We will begin with breath-work, and proceed gently towards a movement session rooted in fusion vocabulary, but unconcerned with counts, phrasing, sequencing and structure. I will offer theoretical highlights from my 25 years of study in sacred and transcendental dance traditions (North Africa, Central and West Africa, Caribbean Islands, Brazil, Louisiana). We will also discuss current understandings of why our brains and neurological systems respond to movement in such specific ways. Deliberate breath work will serve as the barometer for integration and the touchstone of expanding the senses. I offer my pledge of a thoughtful, conscientious and carefully guided passage… an invitation to let dance move through you and bring you to a broader sense of self. This will not be a workshop about any specific beliefs or dogma. Rather, it will serve as an intentional laboratory for one aspect of dance celebrated by over half of the world’s cultures… dance as a technology for expanded consciousness. Comfortable clothing will be very important for your best experience. All experience levels, body types and gender expressions will be embraced and welcomed.

3:30 – 5:00 p.m. For the Love of the Craft, Lecture
Donna Mejia is the first to hold a position in Transnational Fusion in the higher education system and will overview her provocative research regarding the ethics of dance fusion and cultural appropriation. The exploration of ethnic/cultural dance fusion mandates that artists reconcile the values of indigenous dance traditions with agendas of the entertainment world. This presentation will explore the inevitable transformation of old and new dance traditions in performance, and seek to define what responsibility choreographers/performers have as cultural ambassadors in a “cut and paste” environment. With her usual candor and humor, Donna will address the very controversial issues we have all encountered at one time or another in our love for, and dedication to, this genre.

Midnight – 2 a.m. Transnational Fusion / Movement Invention
After drilling foundation hip work and shimmies, we will plunge deeply into learning a variety of pelvic and torso articulations born from Donna’s adventurous imagination: wave-drops, whip-lash body undulations, quaking circles, black-ice slides, spiraling undulations, elastic vine drops, rebounding figure 8’s, and many more concoctions. This workshop is most beneficial for dancers with a confident and well-practiced foundation in hip work already. Please bring a yoga mat for warm-up.

1:00 – 3:00 p.m. Somatic science, Advancing Technique
Exploring Beyond the Boundaries of What We Think We Know
Preserving age-old traditions and cultural treasures is always a worthy endeavor. Yet blurring boundaries to seek common denominators and universal truths has equal value. Some argue that cross-training outside of a tradition erodes one’s abilities, but this is a myth intended to reinforce out-dated hierarchies and rivalries between nations and cultures. For those unafraid of new possibilities in human expression, this workshop celebrates our privilege to zoom in and out of various dance genres to excavate and detail the most efficient tools for unleashing the intelligence of the body in dance. Fascinated by her own multi-heritage background, Donna studied ballet, yoga, contemporary modern, break dance, Pilates, acrobalance, West African, Mexican Folklorico, Flamenco, Brazilian, Caribbean, Arab/North African, Indian bhangra, and European folk traditions in her 30 plus years of dance studies (plus some). By studying the signature values of many classical traditions, she has galvanized a personal movement style that defies categorization. You are hereby invited to join Donna on her investigations into unfamiliar movements and extraordinary prospects in art-making. Anything can happen, from headstands and floor rolls, to partner work and turns. A fantastic and adventurous sense of humor is required! Experienced, intermediate and advanced dancers only please. Athletic/dance attire, bare feet and a yoga mat will work best. Knee pads may be helpful on occasion.

3:30 – 5:30 p.m. Introduction to Silvestre Technique
Silvestre Technique is a contemporary modern dance training system rooted in the symbology and gestures of Brazilian dance and movement culture. It is astonishing to watch, and a revelation for dancers who’ve studied it. It is a strongly technical system, whereby dancers grow to possess strength, versatility, speed, elasticity, precision and elegant expression in their bodies. The Silvestre Technique is not only a system for training of the physical form, it also provides a paradigm for how humans relate to, receive and manage subtle energies/life force from the universe as they are embodied through the elements of nature: Earth, air, water and fire. It is an esoteric approach to training the body in which dancers deepen and refine their subtle senses to new dimensions. The system originated with Rosangela Silvestre, a powerful and exquisite choreographer from Salvador, Bahia (Brazil) responsible for developing an entirely new language in contemporary dance.

Silvestre technique gives equal importance to physical alignment, athleticism and emotional/personal expression. The technique seeks to support dancers in identifying and expanding their maximum potential as expressive beings. To cultivate a harmonious awareness of these values, class begins with standing meditation and slow, methodical attunement of the subtle energies and life forces within the
body. Throughout the warm up silence and occasional stillness are revisited to allow awareness to flourish and deepen.

Dancers are encouraged to concentrate exclusively on their practice and set aside all distractions in the room, and in their minds. To build practitioners’ responsiveness to subtle changes, tempos fluctuate, and musical accompaniment changes constantly. As practitioners grow accustomed to the sequences, they shift their focus to the subtle emotional and energetic cues arising in their field of awareness. Silvestre technique also presses dancers to acknowledge their present limitations and work intelligently to achieve new growth without forcing the body’s capacities. Positions and sequences can be modified to help dancers match their ability in a manageable way, and avoid the consequential damage that can be done by trying to aggrandize their movement beyond their present ability. Personal examination is a key value and participants are discouraged from side-stepping their weaknesses.

The atmosphere of a Silvestre class is typically intense, electrically charged and evocative. Personal examination is a key value and participants are discouraged from side-stepping their weaknesses.

Workshop Packages

All dance workshops and lecture will be held at Datura Studio.  This is a lovely boutique studio with two walls of mirrors and an a cozy lobby for tea drinking and relaxing between workshops.
Please note that workshops will be limited to 25 people this year for an optimal learning experience.

Submitting a deposit will secure your spot in the weekend intensive.
To retain Early Bird pricing, please pay the remainder on your package by April 15, 2018.
Deposits are not refundable.

Please feel free to email me directly at with any questions.